Content Warning: Graphic Violence, Gore
Scourge Commander Grimfang leaned over the balcony, quietly observing the Plaguelands from his position in Acherus. He would never admit it, but he rather enjoyed the view from atop the floating citadel. There was something breath-taking and strangely peaceful about gazing over the lands. He felt untouchable. Unchallenged. As the Scourge would be. The Scarlet Enclave was ripe for the taking. Whether it was courage or foolishness that kept them from relocating, he would never know.
At the sound of heavy footsteps and the soft clinking of metal behind him, the grizzled old Orc turned to address whomever approached. Several other Death Knights, about two dozen strong, clad in the Saronite armor favored by their kind, wielding runeblades, axes, spears, and other cruel weapons had assembled. They were an assembly of several races, Alliance and Horde alike, all reforged into weapons of war for their masters upon being raised into the fold of the Scourge. They stood in silent formation, two columns of twelve, awaiting orders.
One of them stepped forward, saluting Grimfang firmly with a fist held over their heart. A woman, Kaldorei. Her flesh was a few shades too pale to seem living, but still mostly unblemished by decay. Her icy gaze met that of the old Orc's, and she held it considerably. The tension between them was thick enough to be sliced through with one of their wicked blades, but at last, he yielded, bowing his head to her. "Illyirana Duskmourne," he greets her curtly.
"Kor'gosh Grimfang," she replied coldly, her eyes still boring into him. In life, their two races had battled fiercely, mercilessly, in the Elf's woodland home of Ashenvale over territory and resources. Ironically in death, or through a cruel twist of fate, they now fought under the same banner. "I've gathered the Death Knights, per your request. So how about you brief us so we can get this over with?"
"Very well…" Kor'gosh said, a growl forming in the deepest reaches of his throat. Even though he had slain scores of her kind in Ashenvale as a Grunt, she stood a head higher than him, and he could feel himself beginning to wilt beneath her gaze. If not for the bond they shared through the dark brotherhood, she could easily cleave his head from his shoulders. And he knew so. "Knights!" He barked harshly. "We have our orders. I'll only tell you once, so you sods pay attention!" He paced to and fro before the formation, his cold gaze locking with that of each Death Knight as he passes them. "The Scarlet Crusade infestation continues to spread in the Enclave below us. Our scouts inform us of five hundred strong arriving by ship earlier this morning. They've begun building a new outpost conveniently close to our training grounds. At nightfall, we press the attack. The Master orders us to purge them from these lands by any means necessary. We are to find whomever is leading this new battalion and take them prisoner. Slaughter the rest of them in any manner you see fit. The sun sets on their mortal lives, leaving them as fuel for the Scourge! Mount your steeds and move out!"
The Death Knights saluted Kor'gosh in unison, and even Illyirana rejoined the ranks. Using the portal in the center of the stairwell, they rendezvoused in the Heart of Acherus where teleportation pads on the balcony, where armored, undead warhorses were awaiting them. The Knights diligently mounted up and formed two columns behind Duskmorne and Grimfang respectively. The Night Elf eyed the Orc coldly through her peripheral vision as he bellowed out the orders to move out. She nudges her steed forward, the risen equine whineying and pawing at the ground.
Her look of obvious disdain had not gone unnoticed, however. Turning his gaze toward her, Kor'gosh snorted, causing the dulled metal ring in his septum to flutter. "Have something to say, Duskmourne? Out with it."
The Night Elf gave an annoyed sigh, her icy eyes meeting his again. "I don't take orders from Orcs," she said bluntly, her tone sharp. "Highlord Mograine should have appointed me to lead this mission."
Another derisive snort, followed by a short, barking laugh. "Ha! Well, 'sister,' we're all a part of the same Scourge war machine. The Master's will shall be done! The Highlord put me in charge of leading this assault, so you will obey. The price of defiance is death. And you're dangerously close to me making an example of you."
Illyirana gave a huff and roll of her eyes, if the icy blue glow permitted him to see it. As much as she hated to admit it, he spoke truth. The headstrong elf was on thin ice with the Scourge Commanders, much preferring to give orders than to take them herself. She was hoping to move up in the ranks and some day lead a battalion of her own. Imagine all the destruction and chaos that will be wrought with my hand, she thought to herself. The Lich King would be pleased, if I were shown the opportunity to prove myself.
Shortly after the stroke of midnight, the Knights broke formation and surrounded the perimeter of the fledgling outpost, dismounting their steeds to take cover behind trees and brush. Crude stone walls with sharpened wooden stakes positioned in front of them were all that were protecting the occupants from a not-so-quick or painless death. Kor'gosh and Illyirana led a dozen Knights each; her squadron would flank them from behind as his mounted a direct assault. Skeletal archers were positioned in the hilltops nearby, to pick off any of those who might try to escape.
Kor'gosh gave the signal and his Knights charged in, fierce battle cries and war horns suddenly piercing the idyllic silence. Lit torches were tossed onto buildings and tents, to incite chaos and confusion. Panicked screams sounded as civilians evacuated their lodgings, quickly racing to the well for buckets of water to put out the flames, only to be met by the waiting blades of the Death Knights. The clash of metal, the slicing and wet tearing of flesh, followed by screams of agony and terror.
Illyirana motioned for her soldiers to follow her, then they crept around to the back gates. Those who attempted to flee were intercepted. The townsfolk and masons had little chance of defending themselves, and were being forcibly herded out like livestock to a slaughterhouse. The first to race head on into the group of Knights found himself almost-instantly decapitated as a blood elf swung their blade around in a motion almost too graceful for such brutality. A second tried to slow themselves down and race off in the opposite direction only to lose their footing and stumble, impaling themselves upon a polearm. They gripped the shaft in a feeble attempt to free themselves, but the Knight wielding it only thrusted harder upwards, the serrated sides of the spearhead slicing through their abdomen and exiting through their back.
"Leave no survivors, brothers and sisters!" Illyirana's cold, hollow tone echoed through the cacophony of battle. She turned, winding up face to face with that of a young Human woman whose face was instantly drained of color upon seeing the Death Knight. She screams in terror, throwing up her hands in a misguided attempt to shield herself. With a snarl, the Night Elf swung her blade upward, taking both the woman's hands at the wrists with it. She screamed, staring in shock at the stumps as deep red blood sprayed from them. Another horizontal swing silenced her as her face was cleaved in twain. However, the cut was sloppy. Her last few breaths were gurgled and labored as her tongue twitched from the cavity were the roof of her mouth was mere seconds earlier. She keeled over on her side, still twitching and gasping as more blood pooled beneath her. Perhaps she was feeling merciful, but Illyirana brought her blade down hard on her neck, severing it from the rest of her body. The woman was now unmoving as death finally claimed her.
Unamused, Illyirana flicked the blood and viscera from her blade before seeking her next target. A sudden burning sensation enveloped her, spreading from the back of her shoulder to her right arm; prompting a growl of pain and caused her to falter slightly. She whirls about to see a Scarlet priest glowering at her as Holy Light emanated from his palms. He raised his right as he cast again, sending searing golden light hurling towards her again. The magic made an "X" motion as it struck her in the chest with enough force to cause the Night Elf to drop to one knee. "Curse you and your Light, Crusader!" Illyirana spat at him, rising back to both feet with a grunt, brandishing her runeblade to the side as she charged at the priest.
"We will eradicate your kind from these lands, Scourge fiend!" The man shouted with utter conviction as he sent another burst of Holy Light at her. "I will present your head to High General Abbendis myself! I will be hailed as a hero!" His voice crescendoing to a shout as he channeled his spell.
Each bolt of light struck Illyirana at various points on her chest and torso. She grits her teeth tightly, grunting and growling in agony as he continues his assault, feeling as if her body were simultanously being engulfed in flames and slowly ripped apart. Nostrils flaring, she raises her free hand while making a grasping and clawing motion with it. The priest's spellcasting ceased as he finds himself being choked by dark energies and lifted a few feet from the ground. He gasps and chokes while feebly clawing at his throat in an effort to pry away whatever force is crushing the breath from his lungs.
"Not so fast," Illyirana hissed, continuing to channel her spell. "We claim these lands in the name of the Scourge. Your bones will pave the Frozen Halls to my Master's throne. Your 'Scarlet Crusade' will be little more than a scarlet stain in the dirt once we've finished." She then allows the man to drop back to the ground, gasping and wheezing loudly while clenching at his throat. She then takes a few steps towards him and grabs a handful of his dark brown hair, jerking his head back violently. The howl of pain brought an unsettling smile to her face.
The priest looks up to her, his eyes silently pleading with her for mercy, which only prompts her to tighten her grip and bring another grunt of pain as he squeezes them shut again. "The Light will punish you and your friends for your wicked deeds, Elf! Unless you repent and you'll be returned to the grave!" He says this between gasps and pants, as he still hasn't recovered from nearly being strangled.
Illyirana pauses, looking down at the priest, who had then cracked one eye open. "The Light…" she repeated in a quiet, remorseful voice. The man relaxes visibly, seeing as he might be getting through to the person who might still be inside that risen husk. "The Light," she says again before her expression once again darkens into a glare, "Has abandoned you," she snarls before cleaving his head from his shoulders with one quick, clean swipe of her blade. The slicing of flesh and bone before the sickening sound of connective tissue tearing was almost euphoric to her. She lifts the severed head up to have a look at her prize. The priest's haunting visage at what he realized was the loss of hope right before he passed would please Grimfang, along with making him envious. At least she hoped it would.
Once the outpost was taken, the Death Knights had began sacking the buildings for anything that would prove useful. Grimfang stood in the center and watched, his hands rested on the head of his broadaxe. Illyirana reentered through the rear gate, carrying the severed head in one hand with her runeblade slung over her shoulder, obviously quite proud of herself. He turned his head as she approached and looked at her expectantly. "Something to report, Duskmourne?"
"I'm glad you've asked, Grimfang," she replies, holding the head up for him to see. "Behold! The face of a man who in his final moments realized that all hope is lost. And that his Holy Light has abandoned him. Abandoned them all!" She proclaimed triumphantly, turning to show it to the other Death Knights who had gathered.
Grimfang suddenly did the unexpected; he smiled. Then, his throat erupted in a dark chuckle. "Well done, Duskmourne. You've preformed our Master's will exponentially. And as for the rest of you!" He turned, barking harshly at them. "You would do well to follow her example! In fact, I will personally see to it that she is promoted to Scourge Commander!"
Illyirana blinks at him in disbelief, tilting her head slightly to the side. "Pardon? I thought you despise me."
Grimfang laughs again, coming forward to place a dark-plated hand on her pauldron. "You make a fine Death Knight. You've sown much terror and suffering among the ranks of the Scarlet Crusade. In death, there is no Elf or Orc. Only the Scourge. Keep it up, and you'll soon be commanding your own battalion of Scourge forces." He pats her shoulder again before hobbling away, leaving Illyirana to her thoughts on her newfound position.
Me, a Scourge Commander? I suppose I can get used to this. Illyirana then followed after him, a confident smirk resting on her lips.
To be continued….